The Spinners are a Soul, R&B quintet from Detroit Michigan who got their start in the late 1960s. The majority of their music is Philadelphia Soul, Smooth Soul, and a little bit of pop. The group consisted of five men but specific members varied. The original five members were Billy Henderson (tenor), Edgar Edwards (baritone and original lead), Bobby Smith (tenor), Henry Fambrough (baritone), and Pelvis Jackson (bass). Eventually Phillip Wynne replaced Billy Henderson as the Spinners’ lead singer. Wynne’s unique vocals helped take The Spinners to their high level of success. After some time Edgar Edwards was replaced buy another vocalist G.C. Cameron. They were popular for about six decades before the membership of the group became a revolving door and the frequency of new music decreased.
I chose to write about The Spinners because their significance in my life is extremely vast. My father who is also a lover of the group introduced me to them. My grandmother who was also a lover of The Spinners introduced him to them. When I first heard The Spinners I was amazed at their vocal range and harmonic abilities. They opened my eyes to a decade of Black music I hadn’t previously experienced and the boundless possibilities of musical creation within the African American Community. In this essay I will be discussing the history, success, influence, and legacy of The Spinners.
Originally called the “Domingoes,” this group of high school friends formed in 1957. They were amongst many young boy groups, but something about them was unique. After a couple years of being together producer, Harvey Fuqua, signed them to his record label, Tri – Phi Records, in 1961. Their first single “That’s What Girls are Made For” was released that very same year, and reached the top ten R&B hits of that year (Erlewine). The release of this song began to give the group some real traction in the music industry.
In the late 1960’s Motown bought out Tri Phi Records, thus making The Spinners official Motown artists. For several years The Spinners were not releasing any hit songs because they were not getting the necessary attention from the Motown label, who was more focused on The Temptations and The Supremes. In 1970 Stevie Wonder gave the group a song called “It’s a Shame” which is the song that helped them to begin achieving genuine crossover success.
Two years later, after having very few hits, Motown dropped The Spinners from the label, which was only a blessing in disguise. That same year they signed with Atlantic Records and began working with producer Thom Bell, who gave the group a new lush, seductive sound. The Spinners instantly began topping the R&B and Pop charts with songs like “I’ll Be Around,” ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “One of a King (Love Affair),” and “Rubberband Man.” At Atlantic records their albums consistently went “Gold” (Erlewine).
After only a few short years of being singed to Atlantic Records The Spinners experienced huge crossover success. In 1976 they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Spinners: Unsung). They were also recipients of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award. The Spinners have had five Grammy nominations for Best R&B Group Performance in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, and 1980 (Grammy). They have eighteen studio albums and three live albums. The most popular songs from those albums according to Spotify are “Rubberband Man.” “It’s a Shame,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Could it be I’m Falling in Love,” and “Working My Way Back to You” (Fontenot).
In addition to those songs, they have nineteen “Top 20” R&B hits; among singing groups only The Jackson 5 had more (DailyMotion). Their music has been played on a variety of television shows: “Everybody Hates Chris,” “True Blood,” “Stripes,” and “That 70’s Show.” The Spinners have not been awarded nearly enough for their contributions to R&B and Soul music or their influence in the lives of their listeners.
This group left a rich legacy if wonderful music. Their terrific harmonies, amazing vocal ability, and great stage presence are what set them apart from many groups of their time. This group stood the test of time and fought for their place in the music industry, which is not something, all groups can say. Their songs were infused with the sound and spirit of love. They wanted to spread “good vibes” to their listeners, which is exactly what they did and continue to do for anyone who listens today. Their songs are staples in many African American communities and households. Everyone may not be able to name the members but you know the words and tune when a song of theirs comes on. That is The Spinners’ legacy.
The Original Spinners: Motown- 1967
2nd Time Around: Motown- 1970
Mighty Love: Atlantic-1974
New and Improved: Atlantic-1974
Spinners Live!: Atlantic- 1975
Pick of the Litter: Atlantic- 1975
Happiness Being with the Spinners: Atlantic- 1976
Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow: Atlantic- 1977
Spinners/8: Atlantic- 1977
From Here to Eternity: Atlantic- 1979
Dancin’ and Lovin’: Atlantic- 1979
Love Trippin’: Atlantic- 1980
Can’t Shake This Feelin’: Atlantic- 1981
Labor of Love: Atlantic- 1981
Grand Slam: Atlantic- 1982
Cross Fire: Atlantic- 1984
Lovin’ Feelings: Mirage- 1985
Down To Business: Volt-1989
Eriewine, Stephen Thomas. “The Spinners.” www.allmusic.com
Fontenot, Robert. “The Blueprint for Philly Soul: The Spinners.” www.thoughtco.com
Rizik, Chris. “The Spinners.” www.soultracks.com
“Spinners; Discography and Songs.” www.Discogs.com
‘Spinners’ GRAMMY Awards History,” www.Grammy.com
“The Spinners Biography: Working Their Way Up.” www.soullyolides.com
“The Spinners on Spotify.” www.Spotify.com
Unsung. “The Spinners.” www.Dailymotion.com